Presidents' Day by Seth Margolis is a twisting political thriller where the presidential race has a number of men all clawing to get to the top—each man has a locked closet of secrets, and one man holds every key (available February 7, 2017).
Julian Mellow has spent his life amassing a fortune out of low-risk / high-reward investments. But the one time in his life he got in over his head, he left another man holding the bag, and made an enemy for life, one who has nothing to lose. Now, Mellow has an even greater ambition―to select the next President of the United States―and to make that man do his bidding, in business and beyond.
It all ties to an African nation where his son died years before, where a brutal dictator still rules supreme, and where a resistance movement lurks in the alleys, waiting for the right time to strike. Margolis spans the globe to weave together a brilliant story of politics at its most venal, where murder is a part of the political process, where anyone’s life is up for sale, and where one man―that bad penny of an enemy―could bring the whole kingdom toppling.
As the new President is inaugurated, Seth Margolis has penned a perfect thriller for the voting public, one that asks who really puts the next person in the White House―and at what cost?
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3
At the breakfast table Wednesday morning, Julian was on the phone when Caroline entered. She had on a floor-length silk robe and heeled slippers—the look of a 1940s movie goddess. Caroline was an aristocratic beauty, with a long, disdainful nose; pale blue, skeptical eyes; and full, disapproving lips. That she was the daughter of a mailman from Natick, Massachusetts, with a younger sister who, blessed with the same genetic raw material, had become a popular performer at a local strip bar, only added to her appeal, for Julian was drawn to people who, like himself, were the products of their own stubborn imaginations.
“I can’t talk right now,” he said quickly into the phone when he saw Caroline. “The plane leaves in one hour. There will be another passenger boarding in San Francisco. Say nothing to him. You’ll return to New York on a commercial flight. I’ll call you once you’re in the air.”
“Who was that?” Caroline asked after he’d hung up.
She poured coffee from the pot that Inez, their housekeeper, had earlier placed on the sideboard of the small breakfast room, which separated the kitchen from the formal dining room. “Since when do you ferry your employees on the jet?”
“It’s early,” he said with a sigh, and picked up the New York Times. The governor of New Mexico had announced the previous day that he was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, a late entrant. That swelled the field to four, with the first primary three long months away.
“It’s about Matthew.”
He stopped reading but couldn’t look at her. They’d grown distant in recent years. She was a psychologist with a thriving private practice, had been since before they met. She used her maiden name—Stepinack—and few if any of her patients had the slightest idea that she was married to one of the world’s wealthiest men. She’d never cut back on her hours even as he’d grown increasingly successful. Each morning she walked several blocks east from their building on Fifth Avenue to a sunless, ground-floor office off the lobby of a far less glamorous building on Second Avenue. Neither of them talked much about their work, though both were consumed by it. And yet she could still read him like an old, familiar book.
“What does sending a jet to San Francisco have to do with—”
“It’s in your voice,” she said, “the way you sounded when you were starting out, putting those first deals together, as if everything depended on getting it right. You haven’t sounded like that in twenty years.”
“I have six deals in the works. This afternoon I have a board meeting—I can’t honestly remember which company—and then I’m giving a speech to a group of business students at Columbia. And tomorrow is more of the same. Do you really think it’s about Matthew?”
“I know it is,” she said quietly.
The name lingered in the air between them; they both needed a few seconds to accommodate themselves to the new presence.
“It’s always about him,” Julian said quietly.
“He was my son, too.”
Their eyes met, but just briefly. If anything, she’d been the more devastated by his murder two years ago, at least initially. After a week he’d gone back to his routine, but it had taken Caroline nearly a year to reenter her life. Her patients were referred to colleagues; she’d found it impossible to focus on the anxieties and disappointments of other people. When she did resume her life, she did so completely, with her habitual enthusiasm and energy. Not Julian. He went through the motions of being Julian Mellow. Perhaps if they’d had more children he would have been pulled back to life by the demands of parenthood. But they’d not been able to conceive after Matthew was born, and though he didn’t believe in fate or omens or, for that matter, religion of any sort, he’d always held an unexamined faith that having just one child, a son, was his destiny. He’d been an only child too.
“I know you’re convinced that I don’t think about him as much as you do,” Caroline said.
“You’re convinced you feel his loss more deeply than I do.”
“He was our son.”
“I had to make a decision, the hardest of my life. I could spend the rest of my life grieving, or I could move on. Grieving was by far the more tempting choice—you do realize that, Julian. Grieving would have been much easier. But I decided to move on. You haven’t.”
“Do you have any idea what I’ve accomplished in the past two years? More than seventeen billion dollars in deals.” Such industriousness struck him as monstrous, in light of what had happened to Matthew. Every deal felt like a betrayal, a movement away, leaving Matthew behind. But then again, so did the sunrise each morning, each tick of the clock by his bedside.
“Deals,” she said, practically spitting the word. “You haven’t moved on, not a single inch.”
“I don’t know how,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. Sometimes he felt that if he’d spent more time with Matthew, been a more engaged father, less caught up in deal-making, his son’s death wouldn’t sting quite so hard, and so persistently. He had little to hang on to, few actual memories. The pain was about what might have been, not what was.
“I’ve learned to think of grief as a thing, a kind of object, something hard inside of me, something alien.” She placed a fist over her chest. “A year after Matthew died I put that object on a shelf, a high shelf. I never got rid of it, never threw it away, I just put it to the side. It’s always there, and sometimes…” She shook her head. “Sometimes I can’t help but notice it, and it almost shocks me, the way it did back then. Those are bad moments, bad days. But I just couldn’t carry it around with me, I had to put it somewhere.”
“I can’t do that.”
“You mean you won’t do that. Because you’re too focused on revenge.”
What did she know? He’d been scrupulous about keeping his plans from her, as much for her own protection as anything else. For all his success, Caroline was the more ruthlessly practical. She moved on. He never really could. When she’d gotten pregnant, shortly after they met, when he was penniless and she was just twenty-one, she’d insisted on having the baby, despite his reservations. We’ll figure it out, she’d said. And they had. He stood up.
“I have to get to the office.”
“It won’t help, whatever it is you’re planning,” she called after him as he headed for the front door.
Perhaps she was right. It was too soon to tell. If it went well, then he’d know whether he’d done the right thing, whether he could finally move on. And if it went badly, he’d be destroyed, and she’d go down with him.
Copyright © 2017 Seth Margolis.
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Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.